Doorstop interview, Parliament House

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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23 March 2023

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us about the incident with the ADF helicopter and about how it happened?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, at about nine o'clock last night, there was a ditching of an MRH-90 army helicopter. It happened on a routine exercise which was around counterterrorism training in a maritime environment. It happened around Jervis Bay, so the helicopter was ditched into Jervis Bay. There were 10 crew aboard- a mixture of Army and Navy, Special Forces. Everyone has been able to walk away, there were two minor injuries, one hit their head and another person took on some sea water, but they're being looked after. And essentially, people have been able to get out of this without any serious injury. That represents an incredible achievement on the part of the crew. This was a textbook response to a loss of power the engine stopped, the crew were able to shut the engine down and to ditch the aircraft into Jervis Bay in a way where it was able to keep the aircraft upright. So, we should all be thankful for the professionalism of the men and women of our defence forces. In this instance, they responded to a very terrifying situation, and in the midst of a crisis managed to act in a way which has kept everyone alive.

JOURNALIST: A Chinese defence delegation met with Australian defence officials in Canberra yesterday. Did the Chinese side raise concerns over AUKUS? And what do you think it says that those talks went ahead, despite the fact China has publicly expressed concerns?

MARLES: I'm not going to go into the specifics of what was spoken about. But this is a step that I had been keen to see happen and was something that was raised in my talks with my Chinese counterpart. And that was to try and re-establish the normal defence dialogue that we've actually had with China over a very long period of time, but which has not been happening now for a number of years. When I met the Chinese Defense Minister a couple of times in the course of last year, this was the step that we wanted to take, to just get that normal dialogue back in place. And we're very pleased that this has been able to begin this this meeting.

JOURNALIST: Are we expecting to learn the question that Australians will be asked in the referendum today?

MARLES: Oh, look, I'm not about to pre-empt any of that. The machinery legislation passed the Senate last night. That's what we should be acknowledging today. Because that means we are one step closer to having a referendum and one step closer to recognising our First Nations people in the Constitution by establishing a Voice to Parliament. And we're going to keep walking down this path. And on the day that happens, it will be a great day for this country.

JOURNALIST: What do you have to say just quickly, some MPs and WA MP Josh Wilson, challenging some of the views about the need for the nuclear-powered submarines being the best way to protect?

MARLES: The government is completely committed to walking down the path that we are in acquiring nuclear powered submarines for our country. This is a really important step for the nation. And I've answered a lot of respectful questions that have been asked of me by members of our party room and to be frank Members of Parliament across the political spectrum and that's what you would expect, this is a huge decision for the country. But, you know, as I go around this building, there is a huge sense of unity about the need for us to acquire this capability because this is what will allow us to hand to our kids and our grandkids a much more self-reliant nation. This is what will keep Australia safe in the long term.


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